Abraham Lincoln, the son of a farmer, was born born near Hodgenville, Kentucky, on 12th February, 1809. Although his parents were virtually illiterate, and he spent only a year at school, he developed a love of reading. In March 1830, the Lincoln family moved to Illinois.
After helping his father clear and fence his father's new farm, Lincoln moved to New Salem, where he worked as a storekeeper, postmaster and surveyor. He took a keen interest in politics and supported the Whig Party. In 1834 Lincoln was elected to the Illinois State Legislature where he argued that the role of federal government was to encourage business by establishing a national bank, imposing protective tariffs and improving the country's transport system.
In his spare time Lincoln continued his studies and became a lawyer after passing his bar examination in 1836. There was not much legal work in New Salem and the following year he moved to Springfield, the new state capital of Illinois.
In November, 1842, Lincoln married Mary Todd, the daughter of a prosperous family from Kentucky. The couple had four sons: Robert Lincoln (1843-1926), Edward Baker Lincoln (1846-50), William Lincoln (1850-62) and Thomas Lincoln (1853-1871). Three of the boys died young and only Robert lived long enough to marry and have children.
In 1844 Lincoln formed a legal partnership with William Herndon. The two men worked well together and shared similar political views. Herndon later claimed that he was instrumental in changing Lincoln's views on slavery.
Lincoln's continued to build up his legal work and in 1850 obtained the important role as the attorney for the Illinois Central Railroad. He also defended the son of a friend, William Duff Armstrong, who had been charged with murder. Lincoln successfully undermined the testimony of the prosecution's star witness, Charles Allen, and Armstrong was found not guilty.
In the Illinois State Legislature Lincoln spoke against slavery but believed that Southern states had the right to maintain their current system. When Elijah Lovejoy, an anti-slavery newspaperman was killed, Lincoln refused to condemn lynch-law and instead criticized the extreme policies of the American Anti-Slavery Society.
In 1856 Lincoln joined the Republican Party and challenged Stephen A. Douglas for his seat in the Senate. Lincoln was opposed to Douglas's proposal that the people living in the Louisiana Purchase (Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, the Dakotas, Montana, and parts of Minnesota, Colorado and Wyoming) should be allowed to own slaves. Lincoln argued that the territories must be kept free for "poor people to go and better their condition".
Lincoln raised the issue of slavery again in 1858 when he made a speech at Quincy, Illinois. Lincoln commented: "We have in this nation the element of domestic slavery. The Republican Party think it wrong - we think it is a moral, a social, and a political wrong. We think it is wrong not confining itself merely to the persons of the States where it exists, but that it is a wrong which in its tendency, to say the least, affects the existence of the whole nation. Because we think it wrong, we propose a course of policy that shall deal with it as a wrong. We deal with it as with any other wrong, insofar as we can prevent it growing any larger, and so deal with it that in the run of time there may be some promise of an end to it."
Lincoln's speech upset Southern slaveowners and poor whites, who valued the higher social status they enjoyed over slaves. However, with rapid European immigration taking place in the North, they knew they had a declining influence over federal government. Their concern turned into outrage when in 1860 the Republican Party nominated Lincoln as its presidential candidate. Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, a Radical Republican, was selected as his running mate.
The Democratic Party that met in Charleston in April, 1860, were deeply divided. Stephen A. Douglas was the choice of most northern Democrats but was opposed by those in the Deep South. When Douglas won the nomination, Southern delegates decided to hold another convention in Baltimore and in June selected John Beckenridge of Kentucky as their candidate. The situation was further complicated by the formation of the Constitutional Union Party and the nomination of John Bell of Tennessee as its presidential candidate.
Lincoln won the presidential election with with 1,866,462 votes (18 free states) and beat Stephen A. Douglas (1,375,157 - 1 slave state), John Beckenridge (847,953 - 13 slave states) and John Bell (589,581 - 3 slave states).
Lincoln selected his Cabinet carefully as he knew he would need a united government to face the serious problems ahead. His team included William Seward (Secretary of State), Salmon Chase (Secretary of the Treasury), Simon Cameron (Secretary of War), Gideon Welles (Secretary of the Navy), Edward Bates (Attorney General), Caleb Smith (Secretary of the Interior) and Montgomery Blair (Postmaster General).
During his first administration he made only five changes to his Cabinet: Edwin M. Stanton (Secretary of War - 1862), John Usher (Secretary of the Interior - 1863), William Fessenden (Secretary of the Treasury - 1864), James Speed (Attorney General - 1864), William Dennison (Postmaster General - 1864), Henry McCulloch (Secretary of the Treasury - 1865) and James Harlan (Secretary of the Interior - 1865).
In the three months that followed the election of Lincoln, seven states seceded from the Union: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. Representatives from these seven states quickly established a new political organization, the Confederate States of America.
On 8th February the Confederate States of America adopted a constitution and within ten days had elected Jefferson Davis as its president and Alexander Stephens, as vice-president. Montgomery, Alabama, became its capital and the Stars and Bars was adopted as its flag. Davis was also authorized to raise 100,000 troops.
At his inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln attempted to avoid conflict by announcing that he had no intention "to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." He added: "The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without yourselves being the aggressors."
President Jefferson Davis took the view that after a state seceded, federal forts became the property of the state. On 12th April, 1861, General Pierre T. Beauregard demanded that Major Robert Anderson surrender Fort Sumter in Charleston harbour. Anderson replied that he would be willing to leave the fort in two days when his supplies were exhausted. Beauregard rejected this offer and ordered his Confederate troops to open fire. After 34 hours of bombardment the fort was severely damaged and Anderson was forced to surrender.
On hearing the news Lincoln called a special session of Congress and proclaimed a blockade of Gulf of Mexico ports. This strategy was based on the Anaconda Plan developed by General Winfield Scott, the commanding general of the Union Army. It involved the army occupying the line of the Mississippi and blockading Confederate ports. Scott believed if this was done successfully the South would negotiate a peace deal. However, at the start of the war, the US Navy, had only a small number of ships and was in no position to guard all 3,000 miles of Southern coast.
On 15th April, 1861, Lincoln called on the governors of the Northern states to provide 75,000 militia to serve for three months to put down the insurrection. Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas and Tennessee, all refused to send troops and joined the Confederacy. Kentucky and Missouri were also unwilling to supply men for the Union Army but decided not to take sides in the conflict.
Some states responded well to Lincoln's call for volunteers. The governor of Pennsylvania offered 25 regiments, whereas Ohio provided 22. Most men were encouraged to enlist by bounties offered by the state governments. This money attracted the poor and the unemployed. Many black Americans also attempted to join the army. However, the War Department quickly announced that it had "no intention to call into service of the Government any coloured soldiers." Instead, black volunteers were given jobs as camp attendants, waiters and cooks.
General Winfield Scott was seventy-five when the Civil War started so Lincoln persuaded him to retire and appointed General Irvin McDowell as head of the Union Army. Lincoln sent McDowell to take Richmond, the new base the Confederate government. On 21st July McDowell engaged the Confederate Army at Bull Run. The Confederate troops led by Joseph E. Johnston, Thomas Stonewall Jackson, James Jeb Stuart and Pierre T. Beauregard, easily defeated the inexperienced soldiers of the Union Army. The South had won the first great battle of the war and the Northern casualties totaled 1,492 with another 1,216 missing.
On 30th August, 1861, Major General John C. Fremont, commander of the Union Army in St. Louis, proclaimed that all slaves owned by Confederates in Missouri were free. Lincoln was furious when he heard the news as he feared that this action would force slave-owners in border states to join the Confederate Army. Lincoln asked Fremont to modify his order and free only slaves owned by Missourians actively working for the South. When Fremont refused, he was sacked and replaced by the more conservative, General Henry Halleck.
In November, 1861, Lincoln decided to appoint George McClellan, who was only 34 years old, as commander in chief of the Union Army. He developed a strategy to defeat the Confederate Army that included an army of 273,000 men. His plan was to invade Virginia from the sea and to seize Richmond and the other major cities in the South. McClellan believed that to keep resistance to a minimum, it should be made clear that the Union forces would not interfere with slavery and would help put down any slave insurrections.
In January 1862 the Union Army began to push the Confederates southward. The following month Ulysses S. Grant took his army along the Tennessee River with a flotilla of gunboats and captured Fort Henry. This broke the communications of the extended Confederate line and Joseph E. Johnston decided to withdraw his main army to Nashville. He left 15,000 men to protect Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River but this was enough and Grant had no difficulty taking this prize as well. With western Tennessee now secured, Lincoln was now able to set up a Union government in Nashville by appointing Andrew Johnson as its new governor.
George McClellan appointed Allan Pinkerton to employ his agents to spy on the Confederate Army. His reports exaggerated the size of the enemy and McClellan was unwilling to launch an attack until he had more soldiers available. Under pressure from Radical Republicans in Congress, Abraham Lincoln decided in January, 1862, to appoint Edwin M. Stanton as his new Secretary of War.
Soon after this Lincoln ordered George McClellan to appear before a committee investigating the way the war was being fought. On 15th January, 1862, McClellan had to face the hostile questioning of Benjamin Wade and Zachariah Chandler. Wade asked McClellan why he was refusing to attack the Confederate Army. He replied that he had to prepare the proper routes of retreat. Chandler then said: "General McClellan, if I understand you correctly, before you strike at the rebels you want to be sure of plenty of room so that you can run in case they strike back." Wade added "Or in case you get scared". After McClellan left the room, Wade and Chandler came to the conclusion that McClellan was guilty of "infernal, unmitigated cowardice".
As a result of this meeting Lincoln decided he must find a way to force George McClellan into action. On 31st January he issued General War Order Number One. This ordered McClellan to begin the offensive against the enemy before the 22nd February. Lincoln also insisted on being consulted about McClellan's military plans. Lincoln disagreed with McClellan's desire to attack Richmond from the east. Lincoln only gave in when the division commanders voted 8 to 4 in favour of McClellan's strategy. However, Lincoln no longer had confidence in McClellan and removed him from supreme command of the Union Army. He also insisted that McClellan left 30,000 men behind to defend Washington.
In May, 1862 General David Hunter began enlisting black soldiers in the occupied districts of South Carolina. He was ordered to disband the 1st South Carolina (African Descent) but eventually got approval from Congress for his action. Hunter also issued a statement that all slaves owned by Confederates in the area were free. Lincoln quickly ordered Hunter to retract his proclamation as he still feared that this action would force slave-owners in border states to join the Confederates.
Radical Republicans were furious and John Andrew, the governor of Massachusetts, said that "from the day our government turned its back on the proclamation of General Hunter, the blessing of God has been withdrawn from our arms." The actions of General David Hunter and Lincoln's reaction stimulated a discussion on the recruitment of black soldiers in the Northern press. Wendell Phillips asked, "How many times are we to save Kentucky and lose the war?" This debate was also taking place in the Cabinet, as Edwin M. Stanton was now advocating the creation of black regiments in the Union Army.
Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, one of the leaders of the anti-slavery movement, urged Lincoln to "convert the war into a war on slavery". Lincoln replied that he would continue to place the Union ahead of all else. "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that."
During the summer of 1862, George McClellan and the Army of the Potomac, took part in what became known as the Peninsular Campaign. The main objective was to capture Richmond, the base of the Confederate government. McClellan and his 115,000 troops encountered the Confederate Army at Williamsburg on 5th May. After a brief battle the Confederate forces retreated South.
McClellan moved his troops into the Shenandoah Valley and along with John C. Fremont, Irvin McDowell and Nathaniel Banks surrounded Thomas Stonewall Jackson and his 17,000 man army. First Jackson attacked John C. Fremont at Cross Keys before turning on Irvin McDowell at Port Republic. Jackson then rushed his troops east to join up with Joseph E. Johnson and the Confederate forces fighting McClellan.
General Joseph E. Johnston with some 41,800 men counter-attacked McClellan's slightly larger army at Fair Oaks. The Union Army lost 5,031 men and the Confederate Army 6,134. Johnson was badly wounded during the battle and General Robert E. Lee now took command of the Confederate forces.
Major General John Pope, the commander of the new Army of Virginia, was instructed to move east to Blue Ridge Mountains towards Charlottesville. It was hoped that this move would help McClellan by drawing Robert E. Lee away from defending Richmond. Lee's 80,000 troops were now faced with the prospect of fighting two large armies: McClellan (90,000) and Pope (50,000)
Joined by Thomas Stonewall Jackson, the Confederate troops constantly attacked McClellan and on 27th June they broke through at Gaines Mill. Convinced he was outnumbered, McClellan retreated to James River. Lincoln, frustrated by McClellan's lack of success, sent in Major General John Pope, but he was easily beaten back by Jackson.
George McClellan wrote to Abraham Lincoln complaining that a lack of resources was making it impossible to defeat the Confederate forces. He also made it clear that he was unwilling to employ tactics that would result in heavy casualties. He claimed that "ever poor fellow that is killed or wounded almost haunts me!" On 1st July, 1862, McClellan and Lincoln met at Harrison Landing. McClellan once again insisted that the war should be waged against the Confederate Army and not slavery.
Salmon Chase (Secretary of the Treasury), Edwin M. Stanton (Secretary of War) and vice president Hannibal Hamlin, who were all strong opponents of slavery, led the campaign to have George McClellan sacked. Unwilling to do this, Abraham Lincoln decided to put McClellan in charge of all forces in the Washington area.
George McClellan became a field commander again when the Confederate Army invaded Maryland in September. McClellan and Major General Ambrose Burnside attacked the armies of Robert E. Lee and Thomas Stonewall Jackson at Antietam on 17th September. Outnumbered, Lee and Jackson held out until Ambrose Hill and reinforcements arrived. It was the most costly day of the war with the Union Army having 2,108 killed, 9,549 wounded and 753 missing.
Although far from an overwhelming victory, Lincoln realized the significance of Antietam and on 22nd September, 1862, he felt strong enough to issue his Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln told the nation that from the 1st January, 1863, all slaves in states or parts of states, still in rebellion, would be freed. However, to keep the support of the conservatives in the government, this proclamation did not apply to those border slave states such as Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri that had remained loyal to the Union.
Lincoln now wanted George McClellan to go on the offensive against the Confederate Army. However, McClellan refused to move, complaining that he needed fresh horses. Radical Republicans now began to openly question McClellan's loyalty. "Could the commander be loyal who had opposed all previous forward movements, and only made this advance after the enemy had been evacuated" wrote George W. Julian. Whereas William P. Fessenden came to the conclusion that McClellan was "utterly unfit for his position".
Frustrated by McClellan unwillingness to attack, Lincoln recalled him to to Washington with the words: "My dear McClellan: If you don't want to use the Army I should like to borrow it for a while." On 7th November Lincoln removed McClellan from all commands and replaced him with Ambrose Burnside.
In January 1863 it was clear that state governors in the north could not raise enough troops for the Union Army. On 3rd March, the federal government passed the Enrollment Act. This was the first example of conscription or compulsory military service in United States history. The decision to allow men to avoid the draft by paying $300 to hire a substitute, resulted in the accusation that this was a rich man's war and a poor man's fight.
Lincoln was also now ready to give his approval to the formation of black regiments. He had objected in May, 1862, when General David Hunter began enlisting black soldiers into the 1st South Carolina (African Descent) regiment. However, nothing was said when Hunter created two more black regiments in 1863 and soon afterwards Lincoln began encouraging governors and generals to enlist freed slaves.
John Andrew, the governor of Massachusetts, and a passionate opponent of slavery, began recruiting black soldiers and established the 5th Massachusetts (Colored) Cavalry Regiment and the 54th Massachusetts (Colored) and the 55th Massachusetts (Colored) Infantry Regiments. In all, six regiments of US Colored Cavalry, eleven regiments and four companies of US Colored Heavy Artillery, ten batteries of the US Colored Light Artillery, and 100 regiments and sixteen companies of US Colored Infantry were raised during the war. By the end of the conflict nearly 190,000 black soldiers and sailors had served in the Union forces.
In December, 1862, Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac, attacked General Robert E. Lee at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Sharpshooters based in the town initially delayed the Union Army from building a pontoon bridge across the Rappahnnock River. After clearing out the snipers the federal forces had the problem of mounting frontal assaults against troops commanded by James Longstreet. At the end of the day the Union Army had 12,700 men killed or wounded. The well protected Confederate Army suffered losses of 5,300. Ambrose Burnside wanted to renew the attack the following morning but was talked out of it by his commanders.
After the disastrous battle at Fredericksburg Burnside was replaced by Joseph Hooker. Three months later Hooker, with over 104,000 men, began to move towards the Confederate Army. In April, 1863, Hooker decided to attack the Army of Northern Virginia that had been entrenched on the south side of the Rappahonnock River. Hooker crossed the river and took up position at Chancellorsville.
Although outnumbered two to one, Robert E. Lee, opted to split his Confederate Army into two groups. Lee left 10,000 men under Jubal Early, while he and Thomas Stonewall Jackson on 2nd May, successfully attacked the flank of Hooker's army. However, after returning from the battlefield Jackson was accidentally shot by one of his own men. Jackson's left arm was successfully amputated but he developed pneumonia and he died eight days later.
On the 3rd May, James Jeb Stuart, who had taken command of Jackson's troops, mounted another attack and drove Hooker back further. The following day Robert E. Lee and Jubal Early and joined the attack on the Union Army. By 6th May, Hooker had lost over 11,000 men, and decided to retreat from the area.
Later that month Joseph E. Johnston ordered General John Pemberton to attack Ulysses S. Grant at Clinton, Mississippi. Considering this too risky, Pemberton decided to attack Grant's supply train on the road between Grand Gulf and Raymond. Discovering Pemberton's plans, Grant attacked the Confederate Army at Champion's Hill. Pemberton was badly defeated and with the remains of his army returned to their fortifications around Vicksburg. After two failed assaults, Grant decided to starve Pemberton out. This strategy proved successful and on 4th July, Pemberton surrendered the city. The western Confederacy was now completely isolated from the eastern Confederacy and the Union Army had total control of the Mississippi River.
During the summer of 1863 Robert E. Lee decided to take the war to the north. The Confederate Army reached Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on 1st July. The town was quickly taken but the Union Army, led by Major General George Meade, arrived in force soon afterwards and for the next two days the town was the scene of bitter fighting. Attacks led by James Jeb Stuart and James Longstreet proved costly and by the 5th July, Lee decided to retreat south. Both sides suffered heavy losses with Lee losing 28,063 men and Meade 23,049.
Lincoln was encouraged by the army's victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, but was dismayed by the news of the Draft Riots in several American cities. There was heavy loss of life in Detroit but the worst rioting took place in New York City in July. The mob set fire to an African American church and orphanage, and attacked the office of the New York Tribune. Started by Irish immigrants, the main victims were African Americans and activists in the anti-slavery movement. The Union Army were sent in and had to open fire on the rioters in order to gain control of the city. By the time the riot was over, nearly a 1,000 people had been killed or wounded.
In September, 1863, General Braxton Bragg and his troops attacked union armies led by George H. Thomas and William Rosecrans at Chickamuga. Thomas was able to hold firm but Rosecrans and his men fled to Chattanooga. Bragg followed and was attempting to starve Rosecrans out when union forces led by Ulysses S. Grant, Joseph Hooker and William Sherman arrived. Bragg was now forced to retreat and did not stop until he reached Dalton, Georgia.
Major General George Meade also followed the army of Robert E. Lee back south. Lee ordered several counter-attacks but was unable to prevent the Union Army advance taking place. Lee decided to dig in along the west bank of the Mine Run. Considering the fortifications too strong, Meade decided against an assault and spent the winter on the north bank of the Rapidan.
In March, 1864, Ulysses S. Grant was named lieutenant general and the commander of the Union Army. He joined the Army of the Potomac where he worked with George Meade and Philip Sheridan. They crossed the Rapidan and entered the Wilderness. When Lee heard the news he sent in his troops, hoping that the Union's superior artillery and cavalry would be offset by the heavy underbrush of the Wilderness. Fighting began on the 5th May and two days later smoldering paper cartridges set fire to dry leaves and around 200 wounded men were either suffocated or burned to death. Of the 88,892 men that Grant took into the Wilderness, 14,283 were casualties and 3,383 were reported missing. Robert E. Lee lost 7,750 men during the fighting.
On 7th May Ulysses S. Grant gave William Sherman the task of destroying the Confederate Army in Tennessee. Joseph E. Johnston and his army retreated and after some brief skirmishes the two sides fought at Resaca (14th May), Adairsvile (17th May), New Hope Church (25th May) the Kennesaw Mountain (27th June) and Marietta (2nd July). President Jefferson Davis was unhappy about Johnson's withdrawal policy and on 17th July replaced him with the more aggressive John Hood. He immediately went on the attack and hit George H. Thomas and his men at Peachtree Creek. He was badly beaten and lost 2,500 men. Two days later he took on William Sherman at the Battle of Atlanta and lost another 8,000 men.
Attempts to clear out the Shenandoah Valley by Major General Franz Sigel in May and Major General David Hunter in June, ended in failure. Major General Jubal Early, who defeated Hunter, was sent north with 14,000 men in an attempt to draw off troops from Grant's army. Major General Lew Wallace encountered Early by the Monacacy River and although defeated was able to slow his advance to Washington. His attempts to breakthrough the ring forts around the city ended in failure. Lincoln, who witnessed the attack from Fort Stevens, became the first president in American history to see action while in office.
In the summer of 1864 the supporters of the Union became more confident they would win the war. Politicians began to debate what should happen to the South after the war. Radical Republicans were worried that Lincoln would be too lenient on the supporters of the Confederacy. Benjamin Wade and Henry Winter Davis decided to sponsored a bill that provided for the administration of the affairs of southern states by provisional governors. They argued that civil government should only be re-established when half of the male white citizens took an oath of loyalty to the Union.
The Wade-Davis Bill was passed on 2nd July, 1864, with only one Republican voting against it. However, Lincoln refused to sign it. Lincoln defended his decision by telling Zachariah Chandler, one of the bill's supporters, that it was a question of time: "this bill was placed before me a few minutes before Congress adjourns. It is a matter of too much importance to be swallowed in that way." Six days later Lincoln issued a proclamation explaining his views on the bill. He argued that he had rejected it because he did not wish "to be inflexibly committed to any single plan of restoration".
The Radical Republicans were furious with Lincoln's decision. On 5th August, Benjamin Wade and Henry Winter Davis published an attack on Lincoln in the New York Tribune. In what became known as the Wade-Davis Manifesto, the men argued that Lincoln's actions had been taken "at the dictation of his personal ambition" and accused him of "dictatorial usurpation". They added that: "he must realize that our support is of a cause and not of a man."
In August, 1864, the Union Army made another attempt to take control of the Shenandoah Valley. Philip Sheridan and 40,000 soldiers entered the valley and soon encountered troops led by Jubal Early who had just returned from Washington. After a series of minor defeats, Sheridan eventually gained the upper hand. Grant now burnt and destroyed anything of value in the area and after defeating Early in another large-scale battle on 19th October, the Union Army took control of the Shenandoah Valley.
With the South on the verge of defeat, growing number of politicians in the North began to criticize Lincoln for not negotiating a peace deal with Jefferson Davis. Even former supporters such as Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, accused him of prolonging the war to satisfy his personal ambition. Others on the right, such as Clement Vallandigham, claimed that Lincoln was waging a "wicked war in order to free the slaves". Other critics such as Fernando Wood, the mayor of New York, advocated that if Lincoln did not change his policies the city should secede from the Union.
Leading members of the Republican Party began to suggest that Lincoln should replace Hannibal Hamlin as his running mate in the 1864 presidential election. Hamlin was a Radical Republican and it was felt that Lincoln was already sure to gain the support of this political group. It was argued that what Lincoln needed was the votes of those who had previously supported the Democratic Party in the North.
Lincoln's original choice as his vice-president was General Benjamin Butler. Butler, a war hero, had been a member of the Democratic Party, but his experiences during the American Civil War had made him increasingly radical. Simon Cameron was sent to talk to Butler at Fort Monroe about joining the campaign. However, Butler rejected the offer, jokingly saying that he would only accept if Lincoln promised "that within three months after his inauguration he would die".
It was now decided that Andrew Johnson, the governor of Tennessee, would make the best candidate for vice president. By choosing the governor of Tennessee, Lincoln would emphasis that Southern states status were still part of the Union. He would also gain the support of the large War Democrat faction. At a convention of the Republican Party on 8th July, 1864, Johnson received 200 votes to Hamlin's 150 and became Lincoln's running mate. This upset Radical Republications as Johnson had previously made it clear that he was a supporter of slavery.
The military victories of Ulysses S. Grant, William Sherman, George Meade, Philip Sheridan and George H. Thomas in the American Civil War reinforced the idea that the Union Army was close to bringing the war to an end. This helped Lincoln's presidential campaign and with 2,216,067 votes, comfortably beat General George McClellan (1,808,725) in the election.
By the beginning of 1865, Fort Fisher, North Carolina, was the last port under the control of the Confederate Army. Fort Fisher fell to a combined effort of the Union Army and the US Navy on 15th January. William Sherman, removed all resistance in the Shenandoah Valley and then marched to Southern Carolina. On 17th February, Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, was taken. Columbia was virtually burnt to the ground and some people claimed the damage was done by Sherman's men and others said it was carried out by the retreating Confederate Army.
In March, 1865, William Sherman joined Ulysses S. Grant and the main army surrounding Richmond. On 1st April Sherman attacked the Confederate Army at Five Forks. The Confederates, led by Major General George Pickett, were overwhelmed and lost 5,200 men. On hearing the news, Robert E. Lee decided to abandon Richmond and join Joseph E. Johnston and his forces in South Carolina.
President Jefferson Davis, his family and government officials, was forced to flee from Richmond. Soon afterwards the Union Army took the city and Lincoln arrived on 4th April. Protected by ten seamen, he walked the streets and when one black man fell to his knees in front of him, Lincoln told him: "Don't kneel to me. You must kneel to God only and thank him for your freedom." Lincoln travelled to the Confederate Executive Mansion and sat for a while in the former leader's chair before heading back to Washington.
Robert E. Lee, with an army of 8,000 men, probed the Union Army at Appomattox but faced by 110,000 men he decided the cause was hopeless. He contacted Ulysses S. Grant and after agreeing terms on 9th April, surrendered his army at Appomattox Court House. Grant issued a brief statement: "The war is over; the rebels are our countrymen again and the best sign of rejoicing after the victory will be to abstain from all demonstrations in the field."
At his Cabinet meeting on 14th April, Lincoln commented: "There are many in Congress who possess feelings of hate and vindictiveness in which I do not sympathize and cannot participate." He added that enough blood had been shed and would do what he could to prevent any "vengeful actions".
That night Lincoln went to Ford's Theatre with his wife, Mary Lincoln, Clara Harris and Major Henry Rathbone to see a play called Our American Cousin. Lincoln asked Thomas Eckert, chief of the War Department telegraph office, to be his bodyguard. However, Edwin M. Stanton refused permission for Eckert to go claiming he had an important task for him to perform that night. In fact, this was not true and Eckert spent the evening at home.
John Parker, a constable in the Washington Metropolitan Police Force, was detailed to sit on the chair outside the presidential box. During the third act Parker left to get a drink. Soon afterwards, John Wilkes Booth, entered Lincoln's box and shot the president in the back of the head. Booth then jumped to the stage eleven feet below. Despite fracturing his ankle, he was able to reach his horse and gallop out of the city.
Lincoln was taken to the White House but died early the next morning. Over the next few days Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Mudd, Michael O'Laughlin, Edman Spangler and Samuel Arnold were all arrested charged with conspiring to murder Lincoln. Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War, argued that they should be tried by a military court as Lincoln had been Commander in Chief of the army. Several members of the cabinet, including Gideon Welles (Secretary of the Navy), Edward Bates (Attorney General), Orville H. Browning (Secretary of the Interior), and Henry McCulloch (Secretary of the Treasury), disapproved, preferring a civil trial. However, James Speed, the Attorney General, agreed with Stanton and the new president Andrew Johnson, ordered the formation of a nine-man military commission to try the conspirators involved in the assassination of Lincoln.
The trial began on 10th May, 1865. The military commission included leading generals such as David Hunter, Lewis Wallace, Thomas Harris and Alvin Howe. Joseph Holt was chosen as the the government's chief prosecutor. During the trial Holt attempted to persuade the military commission that Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government had been involved in conspiracy.
Joseph Holt attempted to obscure the fact that there were two plots: the first to kidnap and the second to assassinate. It was important for the prosecution not to reveal the existence of a diary taken from the body of John Wilkes Booth. The diary made it clear that the assassination plan dated from 14th April. The defence surprisingly did not call for Booth's diary to be produced in court.
On 29th June, 1865 Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Mudd, Michael O'Laughlin, Edman Spangler and Samuel Arnold were found guilty of being involved in the conspiracy to murder Lincoln. Surratt, Powell, Atzerodt and Herold were hanged at Washington Penitentiary on 7th July, 1865. Surratt, who was expected to be reprieved, was the first woman in American history to be executed.
The decision to hold a military court received further criticism when John Surratt, who faced a civil trial in 1867, was not convicted by the jury. Michael O'Laughlin died in prison but Samuel Mudd, Edman Spangler and Samuel Arnold were all pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in 1869.